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IHSA Board Updates Return To Activities Guidelines: Waives Two-Game Per Week Limit & Lengthens Summer Season

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***This release was updated on 9/15/20 to reflect that the Board of Directors has tabled the independent team rule discussion, and will revisit the topic after gaining more insight from coaches in the sports. Language has also been added to reflect that there are no changes to the tournament limitations.***

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors met virtually for their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, September 14, 2020, where the Board approved several updates to the IHSA Return To Activities guidelines, while also providing guidance on the IHSA’s independent team participation rule for the 2020-21 school year.

The Board updated its Return To Activities guidelines by waiving the 2020-21 season limitations for winter, spring, and summer sports that would have restricted those sports to no more than two contests per week. The winter, spring, and summer seasons will now revert to their normal season game limitations as dictated by IHSA by-laws. The Board also eliminated the rule that limits tournaments to no more than three teams.

“We have preached that this school year will be fluid, and the changes made by the Board today are a good example of that,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “When the IHSA’s initial Return To Activities guidelines were established, the limitation of two contests per week felt like a constraint that would help limit exposure. However, given how well our state is handling the pandemic, and the lack of setbacks in the fall sports we have conducted so far, there was a consensus that we could move forward with allowing schools to schedule winter, spring, and summer sports without further restrictions.”

Additionally, the IHSA’s summer season will begin two weeks earlier than initially announced. With Monday’s modification, summer sports (baseball, softball, track & field, girls soccer, lacrosse, boys tennis, boys volleyball) can now begin practices on April 19 and games on May 3.

“We understood that when the modified schedule for 2020-21 was released that the summer sport season coaches would take some umbrage with it,” said Anderson. “However, we also knew that summer was the season that we had the most time and flexibility to work with, so we preached patience. We are glad to be able to provide some relief by creating the option to start two weeks earlier.”

Additionally, the Board reviewed a request from Highland High School that sought an exemption to IHSA By-law 3.100, which governs Independent Team Participation. Highland sought an exemption to the rule during 2020-21 for the sports of volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, and softball, which would allow student-athletes in those sports to simultaneously participate on their IHSA school team and on a non-school team. The current by-law prevents participation on a school and non-school team at the same time in the same sport. The Board elected not to provide an exemption to the rule.

“There was a lengthy and spirited discussion on if we should provide an exemption to this rule given the unprecedented nature of the school year,” said Anderson. “The Board understands both sides of the argument and has heard from passionate advocates for each scenario. Ultimately, concerns over safety and equity left them uncomfortable with providing an exemption to this rule today. They consider the matter tabled for the time being, but may revisit if there is support from the advisory committees in these respective sports.”


ACTION ITEMS
1. The Board approved a request from Aurora (Illinois Math and Science Academy) and Yorkville (H.S.) to dissolve their girls swimming and diving cooperative agreement between the schools for the 2020-21 school year.

2. The Board approved a budget for the 2020-21 school year.
IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson:
“The pandemic is having a significant impact on the IHSA financially, just as it is with countless other businesses around the country. We have made a number of freezes and cuts as a part of our 2020-21 budget to help remain financially solvent as we navigate this unprecedented school year. We will continue to evaluate and adapt our budget as necessary throughout the school year.”


APPEALS & HEARINGS
1. The Board sustained the Executive Director’s ruling on a student from Bloomington (Central Catholic). The student was ruled ineligible for not meeting compliance with IHSA By-law 3.040 and its sub-sections.

2. The Board heard an appeal request from Downers Grove North High School varsity wrestling head coach Chris McGrath, Washington High School varsity wrestling head coach Nick Miller, Lockport High School varsity wrestling head coach Josh Oster, and Nate Kessen, an IHSA official and the President-Elect of the Illinois Wrestling Coaches & Officials Association. The group requested that the IHSA wrestling season be moved from the winter to May during the 2020-21 school year. The Board tabled the appeal, citing a desire to revisit the topic at their October meeting when they can better evaluate winter sports.


DISCUSSION ITEMS
At each meeting of the Board of Directors, there are certain items the Board discusses, but upon which no action is taken. The following is a report of those items from the September 14, 2020, agenda:

1. The Board discussed the letter submitted to Governor Pritzker and Deputy Governor Ruiz by IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson on September 10. Citing the mental and physical benefits of participation for student-athletes, the letter seeks permission for the IHSA and its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to resume control of determining the resumption of IHSA sports and activities moving forward. The Board has asked the IHSA staff to prepare accordingly for a response to the letter by government officials and an action plan for future and continued communication with the governor’s office. 
IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson:
“The fact of the matter is that under the leadership of Governor Pritzker, Illinois has attained one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country. When you couple that with surrounding states successfully conducting high school sports, and many non-school teams being allowed to play, it feels like the appropriate time for the IHSA to be provided the ability to reexamine our situation.”

2. The Board heard an update on by-law submissions thus far. By-law submissions are due to the IHSA office by October 13, 2020 in order to be included in the 2020-21 Legislative process that begins in November.

3. IHSA Assistant Executive Director Beth Sauser announced that the IHSA will conduct the IHSA School Spirit Showdown in 2020-21 in place of the annual Student Section Showdown. For more information on how to enter the School Spirit Showdown, click here.

4. The Board heard an update on a partnership between the IHSA and Special Olympics to provide student-led courses on leadership, culminating with a Youth Leadership Certificate. To register, click here.

5. The Board expressed their gratitude to outgoing IHSA Board President Tim McConnell and Division 2 Board representative Kurt Tenopir from Fremd High School. The principal at Erie High School, McConnell presided over his final IHSA Board meeting after reaching his term-limit serving in three different terms on the Board. Tenopir announced he will not seek reelection to his seat.

6. The Board heard a report on schools who have filed waivers to play up a State Series classification. All waivers require a two-year commitment. The schools, sports, new class, and applicable years on each waiver are listed below:

School-Sport (New class & term)
Urbana (University)-Scholastic Bowl (2A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
New Lenox (Providence Catholic)-Baseball (4A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Chicago (Mt. Carmel)-Baseball (4A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Chicago (Phillips)-Football (7A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic)-Wrestling (3A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Chicago (Marist)-Wrestling (3A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Bethalto (Civic Memorial)-Wrestling (2A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Chicago (Mt. Carmel)-Wrestling (3A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
New Lenox (Providence Catholic)-Wrestling (3A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Joliet (Catholic Academy)-Wrestling (2A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Peoria (Manual)-Boys Basketball (3A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Chicago (Brother Rice)-Boys Basketball (4A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Chicago (St. Rita)-Boys Basketball (4A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)
Peoria (Manual)-Girls Basketball (3A in 2019-20 & 2020-21)

7. The Executive Director updated the Board on the IHSA’s plans for the New Administrators Workshop.

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